Last week, an absolutely mammoth distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack brought down the website of security researcher Brian Krebs
. His website, hosted by Akamai pro bono, was pulled offline after it was inundated with 620Gbps of malicious traffic, nearly double the size of the biggest attack Akamai (which tracks such things via their quarterly state of the internet report
) has ever recorded. Krebs was ultimately able to get his website back online after Google stepped in to provide DDoS mitigation through its Project Shield service.
According to Krebs, the attack came, he believes, after he began digging more deeply
into various gangs that deliver DDoS attacks on-demand. And according to Krebs, this time they had the help of the hystercially piss poor security of the internet of things (IoT) industry:
"There are some indications that this attack was launched with the help of a botnet that has enslaved a large number of hacked so-called “Internet of Things,” (IoT) devices — routers, IP cameras and digital video recorders (DVRs) that are exposed to the Internet and protected with weak or hard-coded passwords."
So not only are "smart" refrigerators
, tea kettles
and power outlets
leaking your unencrypted data to any nitwit with a modicum of technical knowledge, they're being utilized to amplify existing attacks on security researchers who are actually trying to make things better. The attack comes directly on the heels of Bruce Schneier warning us the check is about to come due
-- after IoT companies and evangelists that prioritized hype and sales over security fundamentals helped introduce millions of new network attack vectors into the wild over the last five years or so.
In a recent blog post
, Schneier also noted that these larger DDoS attacks come as multiple groups and individuals (likely nation state sponsored hackers) have begun probing for vulnerabilities on an unprecedented scale:
"Recently, some of the major companies that provide the basic infrastructure that makes the Internet work have seen an increase in DDoS attacks against them. Moreover, they have seen a certain profile of attacks. These attacks are significantly larger than the ones they're used to seeing. They last longer. They're more sophisticated. And they look like probing. One week, the attack would start at a particular level of attack and slowly ramp up before stopping. The next week, it would start at that higher point and continue. And so on, along those lines, as if the attacker were looking for the exact point of failure."
And they're finding, as many have warned, millions of poorly secured Internet of Things "smart" devices with stupid default passwords -- or in many instances no security at all. In most instances the buyers of these products are utterly clueless of their participation in these botnets, and very frequently these devices don't give the end user transparent end control over what's being sent over the network anyway.
In a follow-up blog post by Krebs
, he makes it clear that in addition to being immensely dangerous (potentially fatal if the right systems are targeted), these larger scale DDoS attacks propped up by the IoT should also be seen as a growing assault on free speech. After all, few independent journalists would be able to afford the kind of DDoS mitigation technologies necessary to truly stop these new, larger attacks:
"In an interview with The Boston Globe, Akamai executives said the attack — if sustained — likely would have cost the company millions of dollars. In the hours and days following my site going offline, I spoke with multiple DDoS mitigation firms. One offered to host KrebsOnSecurity for two weeks at no charge, but after that they said the same kind of protection I had under Akamai would cost between $150,000 and $200,000 per year.
For a country that likes to talk a lot about cybersecurity (mostly to justify awful government policy like backdoors that make us less secure than ever
), the United States isn't doing all that much to mitigate the looming threat. Much like Schneier, Krebs calls for a more coordinated effort by industry and government to wake up and begin greater institutional-grade collaborative efforts to shore up our collective security before things spiral out of control:
"I don’t know what it will take to wake the larger Internet community out of its slumber to address this growing threat to free speech and ecommerce. My guess is it will take an attack that endangers human lives, shuts down critical national infrastructure systems, or disrupts national elections."
And it probably goes without saying that this threat looms as we ponder electing two of the least technically sophisticated Presidential candidates in recent memory. These are two researchers who aren't prone to hyperbole, so it seems like we might just want to take their advice before the Internet of Things devolves from a running gag
into a potentially fatal shitshow.